2. Progress and Accountability
2.1 Much has already been achieved, or at least started, since the publication of Learning for the Twenty-first Century and The Learning Age. A list of some of the main initiatives is set out in the box below. By any measure, this is an excellent start and serves as a context to our report and advise.
2.2 We believe that this undoubted progress should be more clearly signalled and enhanced in the following ways:
2.3 Greater understanding and more widespread involvement in lifelong learning will enable open discussion and assessment of the scale of success in meeting the challenge within a clear and well-understood framework of objectives, targets and timescales.
2.4 The field of lifelong learning is necessarily very broad. This is both its attraction and, simultaneously, a potential source of weakness. Lifelong learning ranges from the most highly formal and structured educational activities to the most informal and tentative explorations of understanding. Lifelong learning also quite properly encompasses many different levels, purposes, contents, outcomes and motives for learning. This provides scope for a great variety of learning styles and approaches and celebrates diversity. But precisely because of this, there is always an accompanying danger that the field will become so all-inclusive that it inhibits sharpness of focus. Strategy to promote lifelong learning may easily become so multi-stranded that it prevents the development of a clear sense of priority.
2.5 In the early stages of shaping new policy, breadth of vision and an inclusive perspective can be both essential and refreshing. They help to re-define and re-orient the very field itself. That was a chief purpose and main consequence of the publication of The Learning Age, the first phase of a markedly new approach to lifelong learning in this country. But, if the first stage called for imagination and creativity to redefine the agenda and signal a decisive shift in values, the second demands practicality, progress and real achievement.
2.6 This second phase will be longer and more uneven. Hence, a clear indication of priorities and progress is essential. This will increasingly require the development of a clear framework of well-understood targets, timetables, costings, monitoring arrangements and means of evaluation at various levels. Action plans and associated performance indicators, drawn up with appropriate partners, should be published at both national and other appropriate levels, especially locally, and in key sectors of the economy, and according to the issue in hand. This would give clarity and transparency to practical proposals and achievements on the one hand and provide a rallying point for energy and mobilisation on the other.
KR1 The Secretary of State and other Ministers should use high profile opportunities to give an overview and assessment of the development of key national lifelong learning initiatives and achievements in this country. This should be accompanied by publication of these in a clear and accessible form. Such activity should also cover the lifelong learning implications of all major government policy initiatives, not just those specifically concerned with education and training.